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National Poison Prevention Week

Half of all reported poisonings occur in children under age 6.

Written by Jennifer Dean Durning, CPNP Pentucket Medical Pediatrics

National Poison Prevention Week is a good time to review safety information regarding substances that can be harmful if they are used in the wrong way or by the wrong person. Poisons include common consumer products that are safe if used according to the directions on the label, but can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Common sources of poisonings that affect children are medications, household cleaners, alcohol, cosmetics, and plants.

Why are young children at higher risk?

First of all, of course, they can’t read warnings and labels! Think about how babies, toddlers, and preschoolers experience and explore their surroundings. Items that are brightly colored or unfamiliar to them look exciting, and small pills or detergent pods look similar to candy. Small children often pick up an object and move it straight into their mouths. (This is also a reason that they are at higher risk of choking.)

How can you prevent poisoning?

  • Supervise children closely at all times.
  • Store medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter) high out of a child’s reach, preferably in a box or cabinet that locks. The same is recommended for household cleaning products, alcoholic beverages, and personal care items such as nail polish, body wash, or cosmetics.
  • Do not carry items that could be poisonous, such as medicine, in a purse or diaper bag where a child could easily find it.
  • Keep children from eating and drinking at the same time that they are using arts and crafts supplies.

What should you do if you suspect a person has ingested, inhaled, or touched something dangerous?

  • Call 911 if the person appears unconscious or unresponsive.
  • Even if you are not sure what has happened, or how much of the product may be have been consumed, call the national Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 and follow their directions for care.
  • Do NOT administer any drinks or products that you believe will help a person vomit. (The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Poison Control Centers no longer recommend that caregivers keep ipecac syrup in the home, and in fact it is not manufactured anymore.)
  • If the person has a possible poison on the skin, take off any clothing that may have touched it and rinse skin with running water for 15 minutes, then call Poison Help line.
  • If the person got a substance in the eyes, rinse the eyes with running water for 15 minutes and call Poison Help line.


American Academy of Pediatrics